17 Low-Maintenance Cottage Garden Ideas for Flowers With Lots of Color

Pink foxglove flowers in garden
Photo: Ed Gohlich

Cottage garden style is all about soft lines, heirloom varieties, and unstructured flower beds. This informal style of garden is usually achieved by annuals and flowering bulbs that provide ground-level sweeps of color and by perennials that add spontaneous background highlights. Here are 17 low maintenance plants that are must-haves for a cottage-style garden.

01 of 17

Bellflower

Peach-leaf Bellflower
Jeff McNamara

This easy-to-grow perennial produces white or blue flowers that grow on stiff, sturdy stems. It blooms in late spring to early summer, and like most cottage garden plants, bellflowers are great for cutting.

Name: Campanula persicifolia

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall

Zones: 3-7, depending on variety

Buy It: Bellflower ($9, The Home Depot)

02 of 17

Columbine

Aquilegia canadensis Columbine
Brie Passano

A dainty-looking but easy-to-grow perennial, columbine blooms in spring and early summer. Its colorful flowers are loved by hummingbirds and gardeners alike, making them an excellent low-maintenance cottage garden idea.

Name: Aquilegia varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall

Zones: 3-8, depending on variety

03 of 17

Coralbells

dense clump red coralbells
Peter Krumhardt

These rugged, low-growing perennials produce finely cut leaves in a gorgeous assortment of chartreuse, purple, red, bronze, green, and silver. In spring and early summer, coralbells have sprays of pink, red, or white flowers. These flowers are a top choice for hummingbirds.

Name: Heuchera varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 3-8

04 of 17

Daisy

daisy (Leucanthemum)
Peter Krumhardt

The daisy provides long-lasting summer blooms and a simplistic beauty that works well in any cottage garden design. Its bright white flowers with sunny yellow centers are perfect for beds and borders and cutting gardens.

Name: Leucanthemum varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall

Zones: 5-9

05 of 17

Delphinium

delphinium 'blue bird' in garden
David McDonald

Producing stately spires in shades of purple, blue, pink, and white, delphinium is one of the most regal cottage garden plants. However, these taller types of perennials need staking to protect them from the wind, but they're well worth the extra work.

Name: Delphinium varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 4-6 feet tall, depending on variety

Zones: 3-7, depending on variety

Buy It: Cobalt Dreams Delphinium ($17, The Home Depot)

06 of 17

Dianthus

small pink dianthus blossoms near landscaping rock
Denny Schrock

Filling spring gardens with their sweet scents, dianthus varieties offer pretty blooms in shades of pink, red, and white. Deadhead the spent flowers to promote a second bloom when their flowering declines.

Name: Dianthus varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 1 foot tall

Zones: 6-9, depending on variety

Buy It: Pink Dianthus ($21, The Home Depot )

07 of 17

Foxglove

Foxglove Digitalis varieties
Ed Gohlich

This woodland beauty reliably produces beautiful upright spikes of bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple, pink, and white. Most common foxgloves self-seed and appear each year in the garden. However, only a basal rosette of leaves is produced in the first year from seed. The plant's flowers produced in the second year sit atop leafy spires rising from the centers of the basal rosettes. Grow this plant with caution because all parts of it are highly poisonous.

Name: Digitalis varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 2-5 feet tall, depending on variety

Zones: 4-8, depending on variety

08 of 17

Hollyhock

Hollyhock Alcea rosea
Susan A. Roth

Always an eye-catching low maintenance cottage garden idea, hollyhocks bear large, colorful flowers on stems that can reach 8 feet tall. They bloom in a wide range of shades, from nearly black to red, purple, yellow, and white.

Name: Alcea rosea

Growing Conditions: Full sun and medium moist well-drained soil

Size: 6-8 feet tall, depending on variety

Zones: 2-10

Buy It: Alcea rosea 'Nigra' ($15, White Flower Farm)

09 of 17

Bigleaf Hydrangea

endless summer bloomstruck hydrangea
Kritsada Panichgul

With lots of exciting varieties to choose from, bigleaf hydrangea shrubs produce large clusters of pink, blue, or white flowers in early summer. Those big blooms look gorgeous in a cut flower arrangement if you can bear to take them out of your garden.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla

Growing Conditions: Part sun to full shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 10 feet tall

Zones: 5-11

Buy It: Bloomstruck Hydrangea ($23, The Home Depot)

10 of 17

Iris

white yellow Siberian Iris
Peter Krumhardt

Many irises are wonderfully fragrant flowers, offering many blooms available in a rainbow of colors and sizes. Siberian iris is an easy favorite for cottage gardens, with its grassy leaves, graceful flowers, and lack of appeal to rabbits.

Name: Iris varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Height: to 4 feet tall

Zones: 3-8

11 of 17

Lavender

lavender patch
David Patterson

Both ornamental and useful, lavender bears fragrant foliage and flowers that draw pollinators. The blooms typically appear in shades of violet and white. They're lovely for drying and using in sachets and other craft projects.

Name: Lavandula varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 1-2 feet tall

Zones: 5-8, depending on variety

12 of 17

Lady's Mantle

Yellow Alchemilla Close
Matthew Benson

This classic, low-growing perennial offers sprays of chartreuse blooms in spring and green foliage that's fuzzy to the touch. That fuzz often catches early morning dewdrops, giving lady's mantle a spangled appearance. Try growing it as an elegant landscape edging plant along a path or at the front of a perennial border.

Name: Alchemilla mollis

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-2 feet tall

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Alchemilla mollis ($14, White Flower Farm)

13 of 17

Peony

'Mini Belle' Peony Blooms
Blaine Moats

Peonies are some of the most romantic plants with their showy, petal-packed blooms. They bloom in mid-to-late spring. They look stunning, give off a wonderful fragrance, and are virtually pest-free. In addition, peonies perform well outside your garden. You can enjoy cut peonies in a vase for up to three weeks with the proper upkeep, or dry them to admire their colors even longer.

Name: Paeonia varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall, depending on variety

Zones: 3-8, depending on variety

14 of 17

Perennial Geranium

Perennial Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'
Nancy Rotenberg

A wealth of geraniums are perfect as cottage garden plants, large and small. An especially impressive variety is 'Johnson's Blue', which offers beautiful blue-purple flowers in early summer. These plants also have vibrant foliage colors in the fall.

Name: Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

15 of 17

Phlox

purple and white Laura phlox
Tom McWilliam

One of the boldest plants in late-summer gardens, garden phlox produces stunning clusters of white, pink, lavender, and red blooms atop tall stems. The flowers are often delightfully fragrant, which helps them attract hummingbirds and other pollinators like butterflies.

Name: Phlox paniculata

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 4 feet, depending on variety

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Bright Eyes Tall Garden Phlox ($19, The Home Depot)

16 of 17

Sweet William

'Sooty' Sweet William
Peter Krumhardt

A biennial that typically self-seeds, sweet William produces beautiful clusters of fragrant blooms from late spring to early summer. The flowers come in vivid red, pink, white, and bi-color shades. The blooms make gorgeous additions to flower bouquets, and they attract pollinators.

Name: Dianthus barbatus

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall

Zones: 3-9, depending on variety

17 of 17

Violet

Johnny-jump-up violet
David Nevala

With their edible and fragrant blooms, violets are among the most charming flowers for cottage gardens. These cool-weather lovers are perennials that will add color to your garden in spring and often bloom again in fall.

Name: Viola varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 9 inches tall

Zones: 6-11, depending on variety

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